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Why I Don’t (Usually) Preach Topical Sermons

August 3, 2017

Though verse-by-verse expositional preaching has been gaining in popularity it is still unfamiliar to many church goers. One of the most common types of preaching is topical. A topical sermon is one that starts with an idea and then draws from various, disconnected passages of Scripture to build the outline and content of the sermon. Topical sermons address a wide range of topics, covering things like marriage, the importance of church, the inspiration of the Bible, addiction recovery, the latest national tragedy or the most recent political controversy. In the last five years I have preached less than a dozen topical sermons during the Sunday morning service.

Instead of following the topical method I usually preach a verse by verse exposition of an entire book of the Bible. An expositional sermon draws the key idea and major points of the sermon from a single, unified passage of the Bible. The sermon may refer to other portion of Scripture to support the key points of the sermon, but it draws the major ideas from a single passage. Expositional preaching is not necessarily verse by verse, but when I preach I start at the beginning of a book and work through every verse until reaching the end of the book. Why do I preach like I this?

I believe the Word of God is sufficient for everything the Christian needs for a Godly life. (2 Peter 1:3) I believe the best way for Christian’s to grow is on a steady diet of God’s Word (1 Peter 2:3) I believe only the Word of God is powerful enough to pierce the heart, convict of sin, bring to saving faith and transform the person. The study of the Bible is not the advanced course for those who really want to be spiritual. The study of the Word is the basic, kindergarten level course for Christian growth.

I preach this way because God has commanded me to preach the Word (2 Timothy 4:2). Paul instructs the man of God to “Give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.” (1 Timothy 4:13) The words of Paul follow the same pattern as that found in Nehemiah 8:8, “So they ready in the book of the law distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading.” As a result, I strive to read a passage, give understanding of the meaning and help the person make sense of how the Biblical truths apply to their life.

Expositional preaching is the only truly timeless and always timely preaching. Expositional preaching is the most relevant preaching on the planet. Discourse and lecture on the opinions of the preacher, constant responses to the latest major news event or appeals to the longings of the community will ultimately leave the congregation with little real Biblical training.

This is not to imply that every topical preacher is in error, nor that every preacher should follow my method. The real issue is not what order the minister follows in preaching the Word, provided he rightly preaches the Word. Topical messages and consecutive exposition can both be used as platforms to launch the preacher into his own ideas and opinions. Handling the Word rightly requires the preacher read, explain and apply Scripture.

The Word of God is the authority over my preaching calendar. The preaching of Scripture is the center of the church gathering. I want people to hear the Word read, explained and applied. I want them to love the Word and to obey the Word. I want to draw to the church people who truly want to know truth. In the end I preach this way because God’s Word is enough. No matter what is going on, the careful consideration of God’s truth is always profitable.


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